Why Do Things Taste Better When Other People Cook?

(Last Updated On: November 19, 2021)

Have you ever had someone else do you a favor and make you food? That’s not really a question, because everyone has had food made for them by virtue of not being born with the innate knowledge of how to cook. But back to food. Whether or not friends/family cut you a favor, or you just went out to eat, you might notice that food you’ve cooked for yourself tastes better when you’re not the one cooking it. So why do things taste better when other people cook?

Are You Just a Bad Cook?

Well, you might be. We don’t know what your meal planning looks like on the daily. Normally the example for “foods that taste better made by someone else” people use is the sandwich. Perhaps because everyone can make a sandwich by just slapping food between two slices of bread. There’s a low skill ceiling to making a sandwich, and even if you have two of the same sandwich, the one you didn’t make is probably still going to be better. 

Sometimes food just tastes better because you know someone else made it. It’s a little special because your friend took the time out of their day to provide you sustenance. But that’s not particularly compelling, especially considering how widespread this phenomenon is. 

Turns out, research into this subject was done some years ago. It actually overturned a longtime assumption, and when you first think about it the conclusion might seem counterintuitive. Imagining food consumption actually reduces the actual consumption of food. 

Which sounds A: counterintuitive, and B: untrue. How often do you fantasize about eating some junk food, and then go eat it? 

Probably whenever you go eat junk food, knowing how terrible it is for you. Studies have also shown that picturing a food you want will make you want to eat it, so your experiences are not unfounded. 

Anticipation

When you’re preparing food, you are anticipating how it will taste for the whole time. The more you focus on how the food might taste the less you actually want it. You can think of it like you are “pre-eating” it. By the time you’re finished making your food and are ready to eat it, your brain is already bored of it. It’s the same logic behind your dessert stomach, which we’ve written about on the blog before. You’re not physically full–that’s why you made a sandwich in the first place. But your palette is satisfied, and you feel less hungry. 

Leaning into that, this also determines how long it will take before you eat the thing you just ate again. Because you’re more satisfied with your food the more you eat (or think about eating it), each bite is progressively less cool to our fickle brains. The amount you enjoy the last bite of a certain dish determines when you’ll go get the food again. If you didn’t enjoy that last bite, you’re probably not going to get that dish anytime soon; even if it’s something you normally like. 


Speaking of sandwiches, go look at some here.

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About Kyler 584 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and has just finished his undergraduate at the University of Washington. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019 and has accumulated so much random, general knowledge he'd rather not think about it. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.